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The Red Dragon Olympics – Beijing 2008 – episode 2

Bird's Nest Beijing

It was by far the most expensive Olympics ever organized in the history of the world. Over 50 billion dollars were spent, millions of people were moved out of their homes in order to make space for the infrastructure, one of the biggest steel mill in the world was moved hundreds of kilometers away and some of the most futuristic sports complexes in the world have been built. It was an Olympics without a budget – “it takes what it takes” because the Middle Empire didn’t want to test its economic force, but to assert it!

I arrived in Beijing in the second week of the Olympic Games. I was expecting heavy clouds, pollution and a dark atmosphere. Or at least this is what I have read in the stories written in Beijing about the first week. But the moment the plane landed on the track I felt relieved, the sun was shining and the sky was incredibly clear. In fact, all week spent in Beijing I only had one day with rain and clouds…The rumors were that the authorities “fine tuned all keys”, to quote a living classic, and cleared the sky full of clouds, a sky that got a lot of people upset during the first week. Also, press conference after press conference announced a daily improvement of the quality of the air through lowering of the pollution level. It’s true, extraordinary measures have been taken, millions of inhabitants have been sent outside the city and the cars were working one day with odd numbers/ another day with even numbers. Most probable after the Olympic Games when millions of cars returned on Beijing’s suspended highways, the poisonous smog will come back. However, there is a positive sign. I do believe the Olympic Games raised the awareness level of the people concerning the pollution problem. And if, after the Olympics, Beijing will remain not only with the ultra-modern sports complexes, the suspended highways and the thousands of hotel rooms, but also with a bit of fresh air, then I can truly say that the 19th edition of the Olympic Games was indeed a big success.

The first surprise though was the lack of foreign tourists. There were some, I won’t say otherwise, but just a few. I do believe there were more athletes and foreign officials than tourists. Their absence was offset by the big masses of Chinese tourists that came to see the biggest sporting event in the history of China. In the hotel lobby, a Chinese tourism agent was complaining that the government deliberately stopped the assault of foreign tourists in order to keep problems away – be they western ones, who demand independence for Tibet, or Muslims wanting to make history. So the man ran out of clients, while the stadiums were filled by working men and army men dressed in civilian. Looking around the stadiums – true, most of the spectators were Chinese, but I couldn’t realize if they were hero-proletarians in the capitalist China or hand picked officers. In fact all the safety measures were raised as well – following an Al-Qaeda threat, the access to the subway resembled an airport control. Let’s not even mention the stadiums.

And if we’re on the subject of government, major efforts have been made in order for the city to look impeccable. First of all everything was sparkling clean in comparison to what I have seen in 2004 during my first visit. Second of all, I didn’t see any more Chinese people spitting on the streets – one of the worst Chinese habits, maybe the grossest one of all. Although at one point I was reading that all the cab drivers were obliged to learn 100 words in English, well, this plan failed…as in the old times, when wanting to go somewhere by taxi, you had to have a piece of papers with the name of the place written in Chinese… Thanks God, the literacy is at a maximum level in the People’s Republic China!

I wrote again and again about the government, but let’s see what the ordinary man on the streets thought. Practically the government imposed an extremely large amount of rules – from not spitting on the streets to leaving the city if you did not have any work to do. I do still believe that the Olympic Games were received with enthusiasm. Over a million volunteers help organize – from stewards in the sports complexes to old women that sat on a chair out in the streets watching God knows what, because I never really got what that was, every each and one of them wearing some beautiful blue shirts – “the volunteer’s shirts”.

The Olympics had a certain impact on fakes as well. First of all, there were no more visible pirated DVDs in the DVD shops. They were either closed or they sold DVDs that had the hologram…the prices were pretty friendly (around 35 yuans that is 3,50 euros), in comparison with the standard 1 euro prices from the past. Truth be told, if you suggested that you’re interested in a newer movie (like “Kung Fu Panda”, a huge success in China) you would find it in someone’s home… also, if you went down to the fakes heaven, like Silk Market you couldn’t find any more fakes of the major Olympics sponsors like Nike or Adidas. There was a solution to this problem as well – if you weren’t satisfied by the brands that were sold freely like Diesel or Polo and you really had to have a Nike, from under the counter appeared a catalog suddenly, you ordered what you wished for and you picked it up from somewhere in the “back”. What was fun about the Silk Market, even the slogan of this mall was fake…if the slogan for the Olympic Games was “One, dream, one world”, the slogan of the Silk Market was “One Dream, One Shopping Paradise”!!!

But let’s move on to sports, though. Everybody saw the two ceremonies, the opening one and the final one…No one was stingy with the appraisal. They were truly magnificent – combining people masses (well, older experiences) with high tech effects. Obviously there were some bad rumours – that some of the fireworks were computer generated (yes, they were) and that the girl who sang beautifully the “Volunteers March” was actually singing playback, because the true possessor of that exceptional voice was too ugly…Obviously, the authorities found answers accordingly  – the Symphonic Orchestra in Sydney also played back at the opening ceremony in the 2000 Sydney Olympics…!

I went to the stadium as well. Yes, on the “Bird nest”. It’s a true architectural wonder. If until now Beijing was all about the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace, from now on the Bird Nest deserves a visit, even if you don’t participate at a sporting event. What’s truly incredible is at night when the Water Cube is lit, the huge pool next to the stadium where all the swimming and polo contests took place. And if I didn’t get the chance to see Phelps live, I did assist though to the incredible new 200 meters world record set by the Jamaican Bolt and the following tribal burst of joy, after the victory. Unfortunately, the small Romanian group that was on that particular evening on the stadium didn’t have a Romanian contestant…although I had all the necessary gear with me – flag, shirt and a funny hat. If I didn’t get to support any Romanian, well, I became quickly a star, as when I was trying to go away, I had to take pictures with the Chinese for almost 2 hours ending up missing even the last subway home!

Pictures from Beijing:

 Sights of China: Tienanmen Square

Tienanmen square

Chinese slogans in Beijing

China shopping: Silk Market Beijing

Silk Market – fakes heaven

Sights of China: Beijing metro

Sights of China: The Olympic Stadium of Beijing

Bird nest

Olympic Stadium of Beijing: Bird's Nest

Sights of China: Bird's Nest

On the Olympic Stadium

Go Romania!

Sights of China: Bird's Nest

Bird nest

Sights of China: Bird's Nest

Bird’s nest

Sights of China: Bird's Nest

200 meters race

Bolt, Olympic Champion - 200 meters

Olympic Champion ? Bolt, came from outerspace

Usain Bolt celebrates the new world record

Usain Bolt – new world record!

Sights of China: Bird's Nest

Sights of China: Bird's Nest

Steward at Olympic Games

Sights of China: Bird's Nest

Bird nest

Sights of China: Water Cube

Water cube

Sights of China: Water Cube

Water cube

Sights of China: Water Cube

Water cube

Fan of Jamaica

Jamaica rules

Celebrating with Ukrainean fans

Live from Beijing

Live from Beijing !

Chinese fans at Olympics

Chinesse supporters

Sights of China: Bird's Nest Beijing

Bird nest

Chinese Olympic volunteers

Official Olympic memorabilla

The slogan of Olympic Games

Sights of Beijing: Tienanmen Square

The statues from Tienanmen square

Adidas store in Beijing

Adidas store

Olympic poster

Olympic souvenirs

Olympic dolls

33. Mesh olimpic.JPG

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